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Not sure if this is dissociating or over-regulating

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RachelBigby

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So on Wednesday I did a psych eval. It got me all discombobulated. I had to sit and drink cold water at the psych office before they let me drive home. Here I am a dizzy emotional mess telling the psychiatrist I often want to die... then I go out to my car, and a friend calls me, and I switch right into cheerful mode. This friend doesn't know about my psych stuff, and I don't want to tip him off. He's very sensitive to tone of voice and often picks up on moods. Instead of being honest, I do a better job of sounding present. That day, I realized just how effective I am at masking. I went from nonfunctional to convincingly cheerful in a nanosecond.

When I'm my cheerful self, it doesn't feel weird or unreal. I don't feel like I'm acting. But it does kind of feel like I'm on autopilot. I can have very meaningful discussions, even help others process an experience, and they feel like I'm fully present. For me it's no different than to talk about the weather. I can just do it.

This probably isn't a good thing for my trauma healing.
 
So on Wednesday I did a psych eval. It got me all discombobulated. I had to sit and drink cold water at the psych office before they let me drive home. Here I am a dizzy emotional mess telling the psychiatrist I often want to die... then I go out to my car, and a friend calls me, and I switch right into cheerful mode. This friend doesn't know about my psych stuff, and I don't want to tip him off. He's very sensitive to tone of voice and often picks up on moods. Instead of being honest, I do a better job of sounding present. That day, I realized just how effective I am at masking. I went from nonfunctional to convincingly cheerful in a nanosecond.

When I'm my cheerful self, it doesn't feel weird or unreal. I don't feel like I'm acting. But it does kind of feel like I'm on autopilot. I can have very meaningful discussions, even help others process an experience, and they feel like I'm fully present. For me it's no different than to talk about the weather. I can just do it.

This probably isn't a good thing for my trauma healing.
I relate to this so much. I compartmentalize so hard, I too can just shove my mental breakdown into a “box” and force myself to act and sound a certain way. Some people can notice but only if they are almost completely unselfish and extremely observant (hint, there’s not many of those people). I don’t know that there’s really anything wrong with it, it’s excellent coping, but I have to make sure I still have a mental breakdown, and deal with whatever it is I won’t deal with in front of people. Often that’s at night, by myself, because I don’t want anyone there. If I don’t make time for it, I’ll be forced to make time for it, because I’ll have a stronger mental breakdown that I can’t pull myself out of. Part of it too is having people you trust and can talk about it with. These people I still don’t breakdown in front of, but I can at least tell them in general terms what happened and why. Otherwise it’s like living a double life and I don’t like that but neither do I want to advertise to everyone I see that I’m mentally ill. So it’s a balance.

One thing that’s good for you? I guess? Is you were honest with your psychiatrist/psychologist. I would usually lie to them and say I’m fine and can leave now, even though I’m frozen. I once left a therapy session and bought knives to kill myself, after telling my therapist I was fine and safe to go home, because I knew if I didn’t lie, I’d be sent to the emergency room, or a mental hospital. There’s no way the therapist would just “give me extra time I didn’t pay for and only let me leave when I was safe” or even call my mom. Like idk, I don’t trust them.
 
masking. I went from nonfunctional to convincingly cheerful in a nanosecond.
Totally relate too.
I remember one day at work, just swirling around with vivid images and thoughts of trauma in my head, and hosted a large online meeting. Afterwards people contacted me to say how I am “serene” and ”always calm”. They actually not only thought it but felt it enough to reach out and tell me. Inside I was a total mess and outwardly that’s what I’m putting out?
it actually doesn’t help me with accepting that someone should have picked up what was happening in the past, as it confirms my view I’m just too good at masking, and it was my fault no one picked up.

Sometimes I think this skill is a blessing. Helps you to function and navigate.
sometimes I think it is a curse. As I don’t know about you, but it compounds the ‘not being seen’ and not having the care you need from others in that moment.
 
That whole being so good at masking that no one can see it is definitely both a blessing and a curse. But that’s exactly why I’ve learned I have to blatantly tell someone and ask for support because they won’t see it. But on the same hand it sucks to be that invisible, especially since I for one, always sees others. It’s easy for me to understand other’s feelings, thoughts, emotions, motivations, etc, I’m intuitive, I read between the lines and hear what they don’t say but rarely do I receive that back from others.
 
So on Wednesday I did a psych eval. It got me all discombobulated. I had to sit and drink cold water at the psych office before they let me drive home. Here I am a dizzy emotional mess telling the psychiatrist I often want to die... then I go out to my car, and a friend calls me, and I switch right into cheerful mode. This friend doesn't know about my psych stuff, and I don't want to tip him off. He's very sensitive to tone of voice and often picks up on moods. Instead of being honest, I do a better job of sounding present. That day, I realized just how effective I am at masking. I went from nonfunctional to convincingly cheerful in a nanosecond.
Thanks for writing this. I have not seen anyone put it into words before.

Otherwise it’s like living a double life and I don’t like that but neither do I want to advertise to everyone I see that I’m mentally ill. So it’s a balance.
This. Never sharing your feelings and always being on autopilot makes you feel like an impostor and it sucks.

I remember one day at work, just swirling around with vivid images and thoughts of trauma in my head, and hosted a large online meeting. Afterwards people contacted me to say how I am “serene” and ”always calm”. They actually not only thought it but felt it enough to reach out and tell me. Inside I was a total mess and outwardly that’s what I’m putting out?
I have had this exact same experience several times. It makes you feel crazy.

When I'm my cheerful self, it doesn't feel weird or unreal.
I can only speak for myself, but I don't think that the "cheerful" or "calm and collected" person I sometimes come across as being is who I really am. It was just something I learnt to do as a child because showing my true feelings in public was never an option.
 
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When I'm my cheerful self, it doesn't feel weird or unreal. I don't feel like I'm acting. But it does kind of feel like I'm on autopilot. I can have very meaningful discussions, even help others process an experience, and they feel like I'm fully present. For me it's no different than to talk about the weather. I can just do it.

This probably isn't a good thing for my trauma healing.
I read this last part while in a bad headspace and misinterpreted it. My apologies.
 
in my understanding, dissociation is where i disconnect, completely. nobody home. don't bother knocking.

this is the first i've heard of "over-regulating" in a psychotherapy context, but by whatever name, i do ^it^ big time. "masking" and "compartmentalizing" are the names i've heard most often. done with mindful awareness, it is a dandy tool. at present, i am using it to help hubby through heart procedures without scaring the unholies out of our children. used psychotically, it has caused me to look like i had multiple personalities. i changed radically and sporadically for each of the various compartments of my life. back in my first parenting career i was working in construction. methinks i needed a longer commute to change from my constructo compartment to my mommy compartment.

balance in all things
 
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